Narcos: Mexico gives two interesting opposing characters showing the origins of disorganised growing cartels.
Amongst the usual theatrics of fictional events based on the drug war, I did wonder for a considerable amount of time why Narcos: Mexico works remarkably well. We’ve all become accustomed to TV series’ and feature-length films based on the cartel and famous drug lords that I took a naive backseat, expecting a repeat. Something is telling about the latest Narcos series that comes together well.
The reason why it works is that the two opposing characters hold similar traits yet live on the opposite side of the fence. This match-up makes up for fascinating television; the narrator provides the knowledge that corruption is the core driver of the drug war, so you watch both characters with a degree of interest in how they handle themselves. Narcos: Mexico is more about knowing your place amongst towering authorities but at the same time, creating your unstoppable force.
Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo (Diego Luna) is an ex-cop that has been disillusioned by the events of the drug war. Like Cocaine Coast, we have a character that seems to embrace his loving family, with promises that he will make them a prosperous life, but you can almost sense that Miguel’s heart is a little tainted. The war has diminished the family-man persona and reduced him to a different person. His ambitions appear far-fetched; at the start of the series, he approaches dangerous lone wolf drug traffickers in an attempt to broach a deal so that his cartel can deliver to Guadalajara. Miguel is the smart fox in his group, seeing the bigger picture rather than just selling off a few drugs to live a simple life.
Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena (Michael Peña) is a DEA agent but also an irritant to his team. Narcos: Mexico presents a character that is erratic, to say the least, due to his ambition to want more. Kiki finds himself distracted easily by events unfolding; he doesn’t want to arrest small-time drug traffickers, he wants the jackpot. Like Miguel, Kiki sticks out like a sore thumb with his peers, always the smart one who challenges those who seemingly have more power. Kiki lives in a daunting reality we all have become aware of in various documentaries and storytelling; a corrupt world where the drug war is a goldmine of power and money between the cops and the cartel.
Kiki and Miguel both have to navigate amongst people who are stuck in the same routine. The DEA, the police and the drug traffickers often merge in Narcos: Mexico, where you do not know who is the ultimate villain. The narrator gives the slight nod in the opening episode that the birth of the drug war is one nonsensical scam and the Netflix series puts that notion to the full effect. In summary, Miguel is thriving to make a powerful, prosperous cartel and Kiki is fighting the challenges to take down the birth of a growing industry.
Strangely enough, I haven’t seen the original Narcos. I understand that Narcos: Mexico was meant to be the fourth season, but Netflix took a backstep and decided to make an entirely new season based on the disorganised drug traffickers before they became systematic cartels led by drug lords. Narcos: Mexico is a well-crafted origin story, which will only make you want to watch the original if you haven’t already.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.